26 October 2011
c. 1935 Bugatti Type 52 “Bebe”
- Chassis no. 449 A
Sold for £24,640
• One of about 500 Bugatti Type “Bebe” 52s built between 1927-36
• Half-scale model of Type 35/51
• 12-volt electric motor, top speed 15-18 km/h
• Detachable alloy wheels, pneumatic tyres, opening hood
These “Bebe” Bugattis were modelled on the Type 35 and 51, which were very successful racers at the time. This was an expensive and desirable toy for children of the wealthy in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and races were staged for them at Deauville and Monte Carlo.
The first car was built for Ettore’s five-year-old son, Roland, for the 1925 Milan show. But what was thought of as a joke turned out to have remarkable staying power. These are often referred to as the Type 52, but it’s believed the factory just called them the “Bebe.” They were aimed at children between six and eight years old. Early models were built on a 47-inch wheelbase; later cars were stretched to 53 inches. Altogether approximately 500 “Bebes” were built between 1927 and 1935.
The car features pneumatic tyres, detachable alloy wheels, a dummy radiator and an opening hood and is powered by a 12-volt battery with a single forward speed. The throttle is connected to a rheostat on the electric motor above the rear axle, and with a simple switch you can reverse polarity and create a reverse gear. Top speed is 15-18 km/h or about 11 mph flat out—perhaps not enough to escape mom or pop!
Restored some time ago in Belgium to concours standards, chassis 449 A sports the longer wheelbase suitable for slightly older children. It became a great status symbol at fashionable French resorts, such as Deauville, where children raced them along the wooden boardwalks by the sea. This one is a must-have addition to any collection of ‘adult-sized’ French sports cars.